Potawatomi 50 Mile Trail Run

Last November I managed an unsuccessful 50-mile attempt, then got mad at myself for DNF-ing and ran a solo 50-miler two weeks later. Now I can finally say that I’ve finished an “official” 50 mile race.

Finisher's belt buckle

Finisher’s belt buckle

Allison and I drove down to Pekin, Illinois after work on Friday. Thanks to a few setbacks (which may or may not have involved me taking a wrong turn), we didn’t arrive until almost midnight. We pitched a tent near the start/finish line in McNaughton Park, and managed about 4 hours of sleep.

The race started at 6 a.m., and consisted of five 10-mile loops on some fairly rugged trails. Each loop involves 3,200 feet of elevation change, two knee-deep water crossings, and three aid stations. The race website describes the course this way:

“… comparing the high altitude, long climbs of the Western mountains to McNaughton hills is like comparing being eaten by a shark vs. being eaten by a 1000 piranhas … both are unpleasant … just in different ways.”

2 minutes before the start

2 minutes before the start

The first lap went by pretty quickly. The sun came up after about 30 minutes, so I was able to ditch the headlamp. I found a group of eight or ten runners holding a pace that I liked, and stayed with them for the entire lap.

Mile 1

Mile 1

Sunrise on one of the ridgelines

Sunrise

One of the countless downhill stretches

One of the countless downhill stretches

The first half of the second lap (miles 10-15) was probably my roughest stretch of the entire day. I had landed awkwardly on my right knee, and could feel it getting really swollen and tender. The thought of another 35 miles on a bad knee was really depressing, so I had to work on staying focused. I popped a couple Ibuprofen at one of the aid stations, and felt a lot better 20 minutes later.

I don't remember where this was...

I don’t actually remember taking this one…

One of precious few flat stretches

One of precious few flat stretches

I don’t remember much about the third lap, except that my knee felt better and I made decent time. My goal going into the race was to “finish 30 miles without feeling terrible”. I knew that if I could start the fourth lap feeling reasonably well, then I would be able to finish the fourth lap…and that if I could finish four laps, I would be able to grit my way through the final lap regardless of how bad I felt.

We had a creek crossing every five miles, so the feet were never dry.

We had a creek crossing every five miles, so the feet were never dry.

One of the open fields

One of the open fields

It must have been something about “odd” and “even” loops, because the 2nd and 4th felt much worse than the 1st, 3rd, or 5th. Early on during the fourth loop, I felt a sharp stab of pain in my right knee while running down one of the steeper hills. I tried ignoring it for awhile, but my knee was now screaming at me once every ten steps or so. I stopped for a few minutes to eat a hamburger and some more painkillers, and a few miles later my legs felt completely fine again. NSAID’s are an amazing thing.

A really steep hill

A really steep hill

Climbing the really steep hill

Climbing the really steep hill

During the final five miles of the race, I (somehow) felt better than I had all day. I had grabbed some trekking poles for the final push, thinking I might need them for some of the more challenging hills…so I ended up just jogging with poles in hand.

Mile 48

Mile 48

Allison had actually hiked out to run the last couple miles with me, which was a nice surprise. When we were about a mile from the finish, I rounded a corner and nearly stepped on a raccoon – with foam hanging off its mouth – lying in the middle of the trail. For a second, I seriously thought I was hallucinating. Allison and I tried shouting at it and prodding it with sticks, but the raccoon just squeaked and hissed at us and rolled onto its back. By this time a couple other runners had come up behind us, and we ended up having to walk right past it, while holding it away from us with sticks.

~5 seconds after finishing

~5 seconds after finishing

My finishing time (13 hours, 34 minutes) definitely didn’t set any course records, but considering the terrain and my nagging injury, I was very happy with it. Here’s the (unofficial) breakdown:

Loop 1 – 2 hours 9 minutes
(rest) – 13 minutes
Loop 2 – 2 hours 17 minutes
(rest) – 17 minutes
Loop 3 – 2 hours 34 minutes
(rest) – 21 minutes
Loop 4 – 2 hours 41 minutes
(rest) – 13 minutes
Loop 5 – 2 hours 49 minutes

(4/11/14 Update: The official results just got posted. I finished 41st out of 95 in the 50 mile event, with an official time of 13:31:18.)

And an approximate list of everything I ate & drank throughout the day:

3 oranges
5 bananas
11 Hammer gels
1 bowl of chicken noodle soup
4 cups of coffee
6 liters Hammer Heed
5 donuts
2 cinnamon rolls
3 hard boiled eggs
1 pulled pork sandwich
3 meatballs
1 hamburger
1 energy bar
3 Jolly Ranchers
1200 mg Ibuprofen
650 mg acetaminophen

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Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 3:20 pm  Comments (3)